With Thanksgiving 2020 fast approaching, it’s time to take stock of those things in our life for which we are grateful. This year will go down in history as one of the most trying and difficult in our nation’s history. There will be plenty of time to look back at what went wrong and why. This month, this week, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to focus on things we in the greater Falls Church community can be thankful for.
After all, about this time last year we were so optimistic. The 2019 Election had produced another blue wave, sweeping in Democratic majorities in both the House of Delegates and the State Senate. With Democrats in charge of the Governor’s mansion as well, we had a blue trifecta of sorts and would soon take complete control of the lawmaking apparatus in Virginia.
As our first order of business, we elected Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn as the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House and the first woman and the first African American majority leader, Delegate Charniele Herring. Keeping a campaign promise to make the Virginia legislature reflect all Virginians, the Speaker then appointed the most diverse slate of committee chairs ever.
The transformation of the Virginia General assembly was about more than simply who we elected. It also is about what, together, we stand for. With our new majorities and leaders from diverse communities in leadership positions, we were able to pass an aggressive and sweeping agenda to bring Virginia into the 21st century.
First order of business was to improve Democracy in Virginia. We went from being ranked 49th to 12th according to the 2020 Cost of Voting Index. I’m thankful that a record number of Virginians were able to conveniently and safely participate in the 2020 elections with more options than ever to cast their ballots. You were able to vote early by mail, in person, at a drop box, or cruise in and out of a very uncrowded election day polling place this year. We also passed flexible voter ID laws and made Election Day a state holiday.
We went from tied for last with a minimum wage of $7.25 to a gradual increase up to $15.00 an hour a few years down the road.
We passed the Equal Rights Amendment.
I’m thankful we passed a historic transportation funding bill to ensure that our state-wide transportation needs are met. We’ve finally identified and dedicated the revenue sources necessary to address our often worst in the nation congestion.
Our communities are now safer because of gun violence prevention legislation designed to keep guns out of the hands of those that shouldn’t have them. Localities can prohibit the carrying of firearms in public places and government buildings. We’re working to improve Virginia’s reputation by reinstating the one handgun purchase per month law.
Through legislation and the biennial budget, we addressed utility shutoffs and evictions related to the ongoing pandemic. The utility shutoff moratorium has been extended to 60 days after the declared state of emergency ends and includes language to create a repayment plan for customers who are behind. A universal eviction moratorium was established to the end of the year. Starting January 1st, we outlined an eviction policy that relies on the creation of payment plans and applications to the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program prior to any evictions related action taking place.
During the Special Session, we passed substantive criminal justice reform to make our communities safer for all of us. Banning no knock warrants, increasing oversight of law enforcement agencies through civilian review boards, creating mental health response teams, requiring de-escalation and racial bias training, limiting the law enforcement agencies ability to purchase military grade equipment, and making it a hate crime to make false 911 calls motivated by race or other bias are just a few highlights.
It is my privilege to serve you in the House of Delegates and I am thankful every day that I have the opportunity to make our community the best place to live, work, and raise a family.